For some reason the Alameda Journal has been running Mark Greenside’s letters so commonly one would think that he was a paid columnist for the publication. The most recent one is — as usual — just chock full of enough “facts” to make it sound as though he’s on to something. But, as we all know, you can throw a set of “facts” out there but if you don’t provide the whole story or the whole context then you haven’t clued your readers in and have only provided enough “information” to support your thesis.
The latest from Mark Greenside can be boiled down to this nutshell: everyone drives! we need build capacity for more driving if we’re going to build more housing.
He then goes on to pepper his op ed with selective facts, including ones from uber conservative Wendell Cox which should be enough to dismiss the entire piece alone.
He then quotes from a Vox piece another quote from Commuting in America, which means that he didn’t bother to read any of the actual research briefs from the larger Commuting in America study. So while it may seem as though he is quoting two different sources, but it’s actually only one source:
“The percentage of Americans who commute by driving alone has risen since 2000.” So says, Alan Pisarski, co-author of the latest Commuting in America report. And Joseph Stromberg, author of “The utter dominance of the car in American commuting,” writes this: ” … more than three-quarters of American workers now drive to work alone, while another 10 percent still ride in carpools. The number of people biking or taking public transportation … only account for about 5.5 percent of commuters.”
While he makes it appear as though “author” Joseph Stromberg’s “The utter dominance of the car in American commuting” is some research study, it’s the Vox piece I linked to above. The quote from Alan Pisarski was cribbed directly from the Stromberg article. It’s interesting that Mark Greenside decided to ignore the very next article in the Vox series, Young people are driving less than their parents. But why?
And also missed this article in the Stromberg series: The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more. And this one: Biking or walking to work will make you happier and healthier. And this: Long commutes make you fat, tired, and miserable. And this one, which is particularly relevant to Alameda: Fewer than 4% of Americans walk or bike to work. Here’s how to change that:
For decades, planners have designed American cities, towns, and suburbs with the primary aim of making driving fast, cheap, and safe. The result of that policy is that more than 85 percent of us drive to work every day — while less than 4 percent bike or walk.
To change this equation, cities and towns will have to transform their streets to make nonmotorized travel safer and easier.
The solutions the piece goes on to detail are the exact things the Alameda planners and advocates have been stressing for all future development projects (and actually current infrastructure): (1) street grid for better biking and pedestrian connections, (2) density and mixed use zoning, (3) eliminate parking minimums, (4) road diets and road narrowing, (5) protected bike lanes, (5) connect bike lanes for usable routes.
Actually, Mark Greenside appeared to ignore every single other article in the series that discussed the consequences of single occupant car commuting and what could be done to encourage other forms of commuting.
Oh, and this older piece: Why free parking is bad for everyone.
Going back to the Communting in America research brief, the future of commuting one wraps up by stressing that because no one really knows how the trends will fall it’s better to not invest in large scale projects but strategies that allow for flexibility, it does not say that because folks still largely favor commuting by car that we should continue to invest in making driving easier:
While uncertainty about the future is not unique to trans- portation, its significance could be more important in the future, as the magnitudes of change and variation in behav- iors across places appear to be growing while the degrees of freedom to respond appear to be economically constrained. Furthermore, uncertainty about the future introduces risks when the lead time for transportation project implementa- tion has become very long and many investments depend upon a half century or more of heavy utilization to amortize often massive investments. Collectively, these conditions favor strategies and investments that offer quicker responses to evident needs, incremental deployment of investments subject to feedback on market response, and flexibility to accommodate evolving technologies and market conditions.
But back to the Greenside piece, he then goes on to list out what people need cars for, which no one would disagree with:
People with children; older people; disabled people; people shopping or transporting people and things; people who need to be someplace in a hurry, on time, in an emergency; in the evening; when it rains or in other inclement weather; on dates; on the way to and from school and work and important appointments and meetings; people going out of town or to any of the zillion places BART and the buses don’t go; people who want a view of the bay from the hills; people who like to drive, who like their Teslas and Minis and muscle cars — look at all those people at the annual Park Street car show; people who want to be alone with themselves or a lover or friends ….
But the majority of what he lists are activities that happen not during commuting hours and the whole premise of his piece is based on researchers saying the people still largely favor commuting by car. Essentially what Greenside has produced is a piece that makes people who are of the “OMG!TRAFFIC” mindset a validation of what they feel in their gut. The problem is Greenside is bending the facts to suit his thesis. Much like all Mark Greenside pieces, there is no solution offered, just a misrepresentation of what is actually being done on the planning level and a fist shaking mentality that everything is going to go to hell.